Doug Finke and Tobias Wall, State Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014
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Some money for state employees’ back wages included in budget bill

5 months, 4 weeks ago Doug Finke and Tobias Wall, State Capitol Bureau

Bill contains $50 million that will be used to pay workers

From Doug Finke and Tobias Wall, State Capitol Bureau :
Some money to make good on back wages owed to unionized state workers since 2011 is included in a capital bill the Illinois House approved Wednesday.
House Bill 3793 contains $50 million that will be used to pay workers at five state agencies who saw their scheduled pay raises canceled in 2011. They’ve been owed the money ever since.
However, the amount is less than half of what is owed to the workers. Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration puts the total amount at $110 million. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees puts it at $112 million. Most, but not all, of the affected workers are members of AFSCME.
“This is a partial payment, but it’s a step forward and long overdue,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said. “We’re pleased. It’s payment on what is the state’s oldest back bill. We understand in these very difficult budget times there are constraints on what’s possible. We’re going to continue to work until every penny earned is paid to state employees.”
Quinn in July 2011 canceled raises due to thousands of state workers because he said the General Assembly did not provide money to pay them. Since then, workers at some state agencies did receive the raises they were due when those agencies found money through other savings.
However, thousands of workers at the departments of Human Services, Corrections, Natural Resources, Public Health and Juvenile Justice are still owed money. The issue ended up in court, and a judge ruled the workers had to be paid but did not set a deadline for payment.
The amount in the bill represents 45 percent of the money owed to the workers. Lindall said if the bill becomes law, the plan is that each of the affected workers would get 45 percent of what they are owed.
Other spending included
Back wages for employees wasn’t the only part of the bill. It also included $50 million to be applied to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, $35 million for school construction grants in Chicago, and $40 million to pay for school maintenance grants for downstate school districts. The bill also contains money for water and sewer projects and to restore a theater in Chicago.
Some Republicans complained about spending $50 million on Chicago teacher pensions. However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said it was justified.
“We pay for all the downstate teachers’ retirement money, and we have been giving short shrift to Chicago over the years,” Currie said. “If we were going to fund them the way we’re going to fund their downstate colleagues, we would be spending not $50 million, but $543 million.”

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